What You Should Know About the Kindle Fire

Kindle FireMany parents, like us, purchased the Amazon Kindle Fire for their children for the holidays. Amazon was running a great sale that put it at $129 for a few weeks at the end of 2012. The intention of this article is to help you understand some of the major issues and challenges of using the Kindle Fire.

First, the Fire does not ship with a charger. It includes a USB to Micro USB cable but not a charging brick to plug into the wall. This is actually quite an issue because the usual USB bricks that you may have accumulated for charging things like phones, the Nintendo DS, or iPods, aren’t powerful enough to charge the Kindle Fire. For instance, the charger that comes with the iPhone or the iPod touch is 5 Volts, 1 Amp (5 Watts). You really need a 9 or 10 Watt (5 Volt, 2 Amp) charger for the Kindle, like the one that comes with the iPad or other tablets. Amazon sells a 9 Watt charger here for $19.99, and also sells a 2.1 Amp car charger here¬†for $24.99.

Design Flaws… or Features?

There are also some strange design decisions that were made with the Kindle Fire. The most glaring issue is the lack of hardware volume buttons. This means that while in a game or application, if mom or dad yells “turn it down!”, the process is:

  1. Slide the bottom slider to reveal the bottom menu and top slider
  2. If you’re quick enough, slide the top slider down
  3. Click on the Volume button
  4. Slide the Volume slider to your desired level
  5. Click the screen to go back to your app

On an iPad or other tablets, there are hardware volume up and down buttons which make changing the volume much easier. One concern with this is when kids are using headphones; if the volume is too loud it isn’t a very quick process to lower it.

Another hardware design issue is the lack of microphone. This certainly isn’t a big deal but some games and applications do utilize a microphone. You can purchase a headset with built in volume controls and microphone here.

But the major issues are with the Kindle Fire’s software and interface. This is a custom front end designed specifically for the Kindle Fire and it lacks some features and usability that other Android-based tablets have. The Kindle Fire interface is kind of a “dumbed down” version of the Android operating system. Amazon’s version doesn’t allow for much updating, and doesn’t allow you to download apps from the Google Play store… only from the Amazon store. Because of this, you’re missing some basic applications that most Android users get, mainly Google Mail, YouTube, and Chrome.

The Kindle Fire is still a great device for reading books and magazines, and allows for web browsing and even viewing videos and listening to music. Those features are still there, they just aren’t what most people may be used to and do seem a bit slow and¬†convoluted.

If you want to know how to get YouTube installed on the Kindle Fire, read this article.


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